Recent Submissions

  • Non-invasive Monitoring of Nest Boxes

    Johnson, Kaylee; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    Nest boxes are an important wildlife management tool which have proven successful in long-term recoveries of waterfowl and other species. Previous studies have shown that flying sqquirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus and G. volans) communally nest in these boxes in northern New York. We sought to monitor wildlife occupancy in nest boxes using non-invasive technologies including cameras and acoustic devices. Between 2019-2020, nest boxes were monitored at the recently burned Altona Flat Rock Forest in northern New York. GoPro cameras were mounted to telescoping poles to check nest boxes for occupancy and other wildlife sign. Later in the survey, goPros were mounted to the boxes for overnight visual and acoustic sampling. Concurrent acoustic sampling was performed using a smartphone enabled bat detector (Echo Meter Touch 2), as studies have shown flying squirrel vocalizations fall in the detectable range of many bat species. Monitoring revealed sign of wildlife (e.g., nests, debris, scat) in nest boxes erected in the burn site. In addition, acoustic data confirmed the presence of a species of concern in our region, the eastern whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) who are known to have strict habitat needs involving open forests and a dense understory to protect nests from predators. This research has offered a window into the potential success wildlife professionals might have using alternative survey methods (e.g., technology) when monitoring sensitive species.
  • Examining the Presence of Microplastic in Wastewater-Derived Soil Amendment

    Koritkowski, Carlee; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    There is growing research on the impact of microplastics in terms of uptake in consumer products (e.g., sea salt, bottled/tap water, beer, mussels, fish, and soil amendments). Studies have shown that wastewater effluent and biosolids are potential pathways for microplastics to enter marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments. Some soil amendments derive from the bacterial mats associated with wastewater processing and are potential pathways of microplastics via soil runoff into surrounding waterbodies. The presence of microplastics in these ecosystems impacts food webs at varying trophic levels and contributes to the persistence of microplastics in the environment. We examined a wastewater-derived soil amendment for microplastics using standard characterization methods. Quantification of microplastics following distilled water hydration of 82g of soil amendment yielded 69 particles. These particulate were primarily fibers (69%) and foams (19%), with lesser films (4%), beads (4%), and fragments (3%). The majority were smaller (125-355um) fiber particles. A standard bag of this soil amendment is 14515g with coverage of 232m2. The average-sized lawn in the United States is approximately 911m2, resulting in the potential to contribute 330,240 particles into soil and ultimately adjacent waterways. Next steps have begun to streamline this process by adopting the wet peroxide oxidation digestion method in an attempt to reduce organic matter. Nile red staining is a recently introduced method that effectively binds to plastic and is visualized using ultraviolet light. Microplastic researchers have developed automated (MP-VAT) software to streamline microplastic quantification and characterization in conjunction with Nile red staining procedures. We aim to incorporate this new approach and evaluate best practices in microplastic quantification and characterization of wastewater-derived soil amendments, as their potential ecosystem consequences are broad. It is important to continue elucidating pathways of these emerging persistent pollutants.
  • Camera trap monitoring of wildlife following a wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock forest

    Jaeger, Tristan; Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2020-05-05)
    Forest disturbance can drastically alter wildlife habitat (i.e., cover, forage and prey abundance). Response of wildlife to disturbance events, particularly the timing involved in returning to pre-disturbance conditions, are important aspects of overall ecosystem recovery and resilience. Here, we study wildlife occurrence and usage patterns following a disturbance at a sandstone pavement pine barren in northern NY. This site is dominated by Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) with an understory largely comprised of Vaccinium angustifolium (Low-bush Blueberry) and Gaylussacia baccata (Huckleberry) serving as a major wildlife resource and fuel for this fire-dependent system. In July 2018, ~220ha of this forest was burned in a wildfire. In fall 2018, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing a gradient of burn severity as well as an adjacent unburned reference area. Annual and seasonal abundances, and diel wildlife activity were characterized using the camTrap package in R Studio. Over the course of the study, overall species richness in the unburned and burned areas were differed (n= 15 and n= 13 respectively), though total occurrences were higher in the unburned (n = 361) than in the burned area (n = 480). Common species captured on the barren include Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare), and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel) which more prevalent in the unburned, while Canis latrans (Coyote) were more common in the burned area. Seasonal trends in wildlife abundance show a clear benefit to being in the unburned area in fall through winter 2018 as it provides resources and hiding cover. In spring, wildlife increased activity within the regenerating burn which remained in high use until summer-fall 2019. Interestingly, Coyote’s use of burned and unburned areas tracks that of their Snowshoe Hare prey and is most pronounced in the burn during spring. At the barren, Snowshoe Hare and Coyote behave nocturnally as compared the diurnal activity of White-tailed Deer. In the unburned area, Coyote appear to shift activity to capture the morning peak of Deer. Further long-term monitoring will elucidate how wildfire affects wildlife community composition, abundance, and distribution on the Altona Flat Rock sandstone pavement barren.
  • Impacts on the growth of Sweet Corn (Zea Mays) exposed to plastic weed fabric and soil amendment with and without earthworms

    Lee, Linh; Gomez, Isabel; Garneau, Danielle (2020-05-05)
    Agricultural practices, such as farm field application of sewer sludge or use of plastic weed fabrics may impact yield of crop plants. Numerous studies have documented the presence of microplastics in wastewater treatment plant effluent and sludge and have noted negative impacts on terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Plastic mulch and weed fabrics are increasingly more common in small-scale farming and over time will degrade into finer microplastic particulate. Both plastic sources have the potential to leach residues into soils and adjacent waterbodies, with potential impacts on both plants and wildlife. Earthworm bioturbation has the potential to redistribute microplastics even deeper into the soils as they consume and lay castings. We established a greenhouse experiment to examine the effects of farming-associated plastics on Sweet Corn (Zea mays) in the presence of Red Worms (Eisenia foetida). We sowed 4 corn seeds per pot across 5 treatments (control, macroplastic, microplastic, amendment 1mm, amendment 355um) with 6 replicates per treatment and lined and covered the pots with screening. Once plants were established (13 days), two Red Worms were introduced to three pots across all treatments. Plant height was measured weekly and upon harvest, stem diameter, leaf abundance, and weights were obtained. Preliminary results suggest that the amendment hastened the date of first germination (6 days post-planting). All plants germinated in 1mm amendment and macroplastic, whereas minimum (88%) germination was observed in 355um amendment and microplastic treatments. There was a statistical difference in the height of Sweet Corn after a week with the tallest plants deriving from the 1mm amendment treatment (p = 0.037, F = 2.643, df = 119). This study serves to help elucidate the complex interactions of microplastic and soil-dwelling organisms on yield of crop plants. Our results will inform farmers and land managers about avoiding techniques that will potentially increase plastics inputs into ecosystems.
  • Natural History Interpretation of Rugar Woods

    Gray, Stephanie; Krech, Jennifer; Domenico, Joshua (2019-05)
    Rugar Woods Interpretive Nature Trail is a <1mile loop in the woods behind the SUNY Plattsburgh fieldhouse. The trail meanders along a stream and provides natural history learning opportunities in the form of 23 interpretive signs, each with interactive QR codes to learn more with online supplemental materials. This nature trail is a collaboration of SUNY Plattsburgh students and faculty and was made possible by funding from a student-subsidized Green Fee granted through the Campus Committee For Environmental Responsibility and the Lake Champlain Basin Program's Champlain Valley Natural Heritage Program.
  • A Survey of Microplastic Pollution from Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluent Within the Lake Champlain Basin

    Le Tarte, Lucas; McCauley, Nathaniel; Moriarty, Melissa; Lee, Erin; Buksa, Brandon; Niekrewicz, Thomas; Garneau, Danielle (2019-05)
    Microplastics are an emerging and ubiquitous pollutant. Recent studies suggest that consumer care products and laundering of synthetic garments are major sources of microplastics. Most current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) technologies are limited in their ability to remove particulate <5mm in size and pose a threat to aquatic organisms. Since 2013, we have been surveying WWTP post-treatment effluent samples with the city of Plattsburgh, NY (N = 61), in 2016 we brought online St Albans, VT (N = 64), Ticonderoga, NY (N = 42), and Burlington, VT (N = 21), and in 2017 Vergennes, VT (N = 20). Post-treatment effluent samples derive from 24 hour plant sampling events and were processed using wet peroxide oxidation methods. All samples were characterized based on the type of microplastic (e.g., fragment, fiber, pellet, film, foam), size, and color, as well as polymer type using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Plant-specific characterization revealed fibers were the most common microplastic in Vergennes (55%) and Ticonderoga (39%), as compared to foam (52%) in St. Albans, fragments (43%) in Plattsburgh, and similar proportions of fragment and films (31%) in Burlington. Estimated output of microplastic particles per day were: Plattsburgh (n = 14,972), St. Albans (n = 28,620), Burlington (n = 19,806), Ticonderoga (n = 10,544), and Vergennes (n = 576). Additionally, polymer type varied by plant and included HDPE, PVA, and styrene. Differences likely reflect plant characteristics, for example Plattsburgh and Burlington serve a similar sized population and have a similar capacity, the difference in particle abundances may be due to varied infrastructure updates. In addition, St. Albans and Vergennes have tertiary treatment; however dates of recent upgrades vary. Microplastic pollution is a concern when we account for plant 24 flow rate and lakewide distribution. Microplastics have the potential to adsorb harmful chemicals residing in the water and pose risk to aquatic organisms and human health. By documenting wastewater treatment plants as a source of microplastics, we can share these findings with plant operators, lake stewards, government officials, and work towards solutions both up and downstream.
  • Wildlife Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Pine Barren in Northern NY

    Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2019-05)
    In July of 2018, approximately 221 hectares of forest were burned in a wildfire at a sandstone pavement barren in Altona NY. Forest overstory is predominantly Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) and Betula lenta (Black Birch), whereas understory is comprised of ericaceous shrubs and Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern). Within weeks of the burn, Jack Pine’s sertoninous cone seeds had germinated and regeneration of fern stolons and birch stump sprouts appeared. We sought to monitor wildlife in response to forest regeneration at the sandstone pavement barren burn as compared to a reference (unburned) site. For this study, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing the burn intensity gradient. Game cameras were equally distributed across the burn and reference sites and remained unbaited. Diel wildlife activity was made possible using camTrap package in R Studio, which organizes image files according to metadata (e.g., time, temperature, species) and facilitates interpretation. Species recorded in the burn sites were, Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote), Leporidae (Rabbit family), Lynx rufus (Bobcat), Procyon lotor (Raccoon), and Pekania pennanti (Fisher). In addition to these species, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel), Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Bonasa umbellus (Ruffed Grouse) were observed in the reference but not the burn sites. In fall 2018, species richness was greater (n = 9) on the reference versus the burn sites (n = 6). In addition, there was greater wildlife abundance (n = 98) at the reference versus the burn sites (n = 44). Diel activity differed for some species between sites, in particular White-tailed Deer activity was crepuscular at the reference site, with activity peaks at both 8am and 6pm, as compared to a single longer duration morning activity bout on the burn. Biodiversity typically responds positively to wildfire in response to regeneration; however this was not observed in the first season following the disturbance. Continued monitoring of wildlife in response to wildfire may reveal differing patterns as the forest continues to succeed.
  • The Ecological Value of Cemeteries and Historical Places

    Moriarty, Melissa; Zborowski, Daniel; Garneau, Danielle (2018)
    Habitat loss and fragmentation is a common conservation threat in the United States. Land in urban areas is at a premium for biodiversity preservation and historic landmarks and cemeteries are green spaces that undergo limited disturbance. Historic and sacred sites, such as those designated by historical markers and listed as cemeteries often contain remnant old growth trees, native species and potentially rare or endangered flora. Old growth trees are often considered a ‘keystone structure’, providing resources that are crucial for other species and/or a ‘foundational species’, essential in forest ecosystems providing food and shelter for wildlife. These mature trees are more prone to environmental factors such as competition with invasive plants, climatic extremes, air pollution, disease/pets and habitat fragmentation, therefore it is crucial to evaluate these historical places to assess their ecosystem service roles. A rapid decline of old foundational trees will have major impacts on the ecosystem services reported in this study. Using a citizen science survey approach and the iNaturalist smartphone app, as well as i-Tree Eco software, we surveyed trees at cemeteries and various historical places in Clinton County, NY. Tree species, diameter at breast height, tree height, percent crown dieback, as well as signs of disease, and woodpecker damage were recorded. The survey found that the most common tree species were Picea abies (Norway spruce), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust), and Picea pungens (blue spruce). Black locust sequesters the most carbon ≈ (525 kg/yr), while Norway spruce reduces runoff (≈75 m3). Annually, mature foundational trees combined annually removed ≈ 57.03 kg ($870/yr) of pollution, stored ≈ 148.7 tons ($21,300) of carbon, ≈ sequestered 1.302 tons ($186.00/yr) of carbon, and produced ≈ 3.472 tons of oxygen. Locally, Riverside Cemetery annually sequestered the most carbon (0.4 tons), produced ≈ 1.2 tons of oxygen, and stored ≈ 1.5 tons of CO2, followed by Gilliland Cemetery. Interestingly, Gilliland Cemetery was found to be a monoculture of the invasive species black locust; more research could provide insight as to ecosystem functioning prior to the invasion. Further research is needed to help provide a stronger ecological value to these historical and sacred spaces.
  • A Survey of Microplastics in Invertebrates in the Lake Champlain Basin

    Garneau, Danielle; Masterson, Riley (2018)
    The goal of this research was to determine whether microplastics (MP) were ingested by aquatic macroinvertebrates resident to Lake Champlain. We did so by quantifying and characterizing (e.g., fragment, fiber, film, foam, pellet) microplastic particulate. In more recent samples, we have dried and weighed invertebrates to better assess uptake. Preliminary wet peroxide oxidation digests were performed on aquatic invertebrates (n = 301). Invertebrate specimens were collected across two classes (Insecta, Malacostra) and 7 orders including Coleoptera, Ephemeroptera, Hemiptera, Odonata, Trichoptera, Mysida, and Amphipodae. These representative organisms are an important part of the lake food web, serving as preferred food for higher vertebrates including fish and waterfowl. Aquatic macroinvertebrates in our sample possess unique feeding methods, such as filter feeding, scraping, piercing, shredding, scavenging, collecting/gathering, and predation. Our research indicated that fibers were the most common microplastic type uptaken by invertebrates. Preliminary results suggest that, Hydropsyche, a filter-feeding insect digested, the greatest mean number of MP’s (n=3). Lake Champlain macroinvertebrates contained on average 0.36 microplastic particles. There are limited reports of microplastics uptaken in aquatic invertebrates and this research provides baseline information for a guild that will be involved in trophic transfer. Results from this research serve to inform residents of the Lake Champlain watershed, anglers, non-profit lake organizations, as well as public health and government officials of the risks microplastics pose to aquatic biota and ultimately humans.
  • Evaluating Bioremediation Potential for Plastic Pollution with Wax Worms, Galleria mellonella

    Garneau, Danielle; Elliott, Alexandria M. (2017)
    Recently researchers have been seeking methods to address plastic pollution problems. These range from oceanic harvesters, to washing machine bags which limit fiber emissions, to bioremediators. In 2015, researchers determined that 100 Galleria mellonella (Wax Worms) were capable of consuming 92 mg of polyethylene in a 12 hour period. In order to assess Wax Worms’s potential as bioremediators, we ran pilot trials using 5 worms under low and high light conditions and exposed them to different forms of plastic such as; PVC (tubing), PET (water bottle), polypropylene (bottle cap), ethylene/vinyl acetate (inner liner bottle cap), and hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (overhead projector sheet), as well as no plastic (control worms). Additional trials (including additional plastic types) are in progress with adjustments in conditions and worm abundance based on pilot study findings. FT-IR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) was used to verify both plastic and fecal polymer composition. Both worms and plastics were photodocumented before and during the experiment to assess signs of foraging (e.g., channeling, chewing) morphological changes in plastics. Fecal material was found to be nylon and azlon (casein) suggesting worms are processing plastic. Consumption of plastic varied across polymers, specifically more polypropylene, PET, and hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose was consumed compared to other types. Channeling was noted on several plastic pieces. Our lab experiment will serve as a baseline for future testing of the bioremediation potential of Wax Worms at addressing small-scale plastic pollution.
  • Trophic transfer of microplastics in Phalacrocorax auritus (Double-Crested Cormorants) and fish in Lake Champlain

    Bullis, Kathleen; Stewart, James; Walrath, Joshua; Putnam, Alexandra; Hammer, Chad; VanBrocklin, Hope; Buska, Brandon; Clune, Alexis; Garneau, Danielle (2018)
    The goal of this research was to determine whether microplastics (MP) result in trophic transfer within invertebrates, fish, and Phalacrocorax auritus (Double-crested Cormorants) resident to Lake Champlain. We did so by quantifying and characterizing (e.g., fragment, fiber, film, foam, pellet) plastic particulate. Wet peroxide oxidation digests were performed on digestive tracts of 665 lake organisms, specifically invertebrates, 15 species of fish, Salvenlius namaycush (Lake Trout), Micropetrus salmoides (Largemouth Bass), Esox lucius (Northern Pike), Amia calva (Bowfin), Micropterus dolomieu (Smallmouth Bass), Salmo salar (Atlantic Salmon), Ameiurus nebulosus (Brown Bullhead Catfish), Perca flavescens (Yellow Perch), Archosargus probatocephalus (Sheepshead), Morone americana (White Perch), Lepomis macrochirus (Bluegill sunfish), Osmerus mordax (Rainbow Smelt), Cottus cognatus (Slimy Sculpin), Ambloplites rupestris (Rock Bass), Alosa pseudoharengus (Alewife), and Phalacrocorax auritis (Double-crested Cormorants). Our research indicated that fibers were the were the most common (80.1%) type of particulate found in all organisms, followed by fragments (9.64%), films (6.36%), foam (3.01%), and pellets (<1%). The fish species Amia calva (Bowfin) contained the greatest average number of plastic particulate (χ ̅= 29.67), followed by Salvelinus hamaycush (Lake Trout) (χ ̅= 22), and Esox Lucius (Northern Pike) (χ ̅= 18.42). Among digested fish, stomachs contained the greatest mean number of MPs (χ ̅= 5.84), followed by the esophagus (χ ̅= 5.48) and intestines (χ ̅=4.76). These findings illustrate trophic transfer in addition to direct consumption of MP’s in Lake Champlain organisms, as invertebrates, fish, and double-crested cormorants contained on average 0.615, 6.49, and 22.93 microplastic particles. Results from this research serve to inform residents of the Lake Champlain watershed, anglers, non-profit lake organizations, as well as public health and government officials of the risks microplastics pose to aquatic biota and ultimately humans.
  • Environmental Impact of Trains in the Adirondacks

    Garneau, Danielle; Busch, Ali; Varin, Zoey (2016)
  • Imperial Dam

    Garneau, Danielle; Hilling, Tom; Tanner, Sam; Beers, Chris (2016)
  • Lyon Mountain: A Timeline of the History of a Small Mining Town

    Garneau, Danielle; Moll, Emily; Thomas, Brandi (2016)
  • History of Wilcox Dock and the Georgia Pacific Paper Company

    Garneau, Danielle; Ramsdell, Connor; Hastings, Emily (2016)
  • Plattsburgh Air Force Base

    Garneau, Danielle; McAdams, Colleen; Guerrier, Danielle (206)
  • The Ausable River

    Garneau, Danielle; Craig, Anika; McKinley, Kristine; Putnam, Alex (2016)
  • Chazy and the Miner Institute

    Garneau, Danielle; Gonzalez, Amanda; Trahan, Rosemary (2016)
  • Microplastic Pollution: A Survey of Wastewater Effluent in the Lake Champlain Basin

    Garneau, Danielle; Moriarty, Melissa; Lee, Erin; Brown, Sadie; Buksa, Brandon; Niekrewicz, Thomas; Barnes, Jason; Chaskey, Elizabeth (2018)
    Microplastic is defined as particulatefragments, fibers, films, foams, pellets, and beads. Microplastic pollution was first documented in the 1970s and interest has grown from initial characterization, to effects within marine and freshwater food chains, ultimately impacting human health. Due to their small size, porosity, and density variation, microplastics often escape wastewater treatment processing (WWTP). Commencing in 2015, we surveyed WWTP post-treatment effluent (N = 59) from the city of Plattsburgh, NY and beginning in fall 2016 from St Albans, VT (N = 29), Ticonderoga, NY (N = 23), and Burlington, VT (N = 9). Effluent samples were collected and digested using wet peroxide oxidation methods, followed by microscopic characterization based on type and size. Plant specifications yielded varied microplastic trends in quantity and type, specifically Plattsburgh largely emitted fibers and fragments, St. Albans emitted a majority of foam, Ticonderoga emitted mostly fibers, and Burlington emitted a majority of fragments. Estimated microplastics released per day ranged from St. Albans (30,268), Plattsburgh (14,105), Burlington (16,843), to Ticonderoga (7,841). Microplastics are an emerging concern for aquatic life as they can biomagnify and adsorb harmful chemicals which bioaccumulate up the food chain. They have been found to impair feeding and reduce survival in many aquatic species. This research further documents wastewater treatment plants as a significant source of microplastics entering Lake Champlain and serves as a basis for further microplastic studies in the Lake Champlain watershed. As plants are not designed to capture these small particulate, consumer behavior must evolve to reduce this pollution threat.

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